Being able to tick off one of your bucket list destinations is always a satisfying task and we managed to do this with our short but memorable visit to the Cinque Terre. We had both dreamed of visiting this remarkable place for years, ever since we saw it featured on Getaway, an Australian travel show on TV. Some places don’t live up to their hype, but beautiful and dramatic Cinque Terre surely does.
Meaning “five lands” in Italian, the Cinque Terre is home to the five unique villages of Monteroso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore, all of which include the Cinque Terre National Park to form part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site.
These five villages were cut off from the rest of Italy and could only be reached by boat or by foot (a long hike) for generations. Nowadays, there is a train that connects this special part of Italy to the rest of the world and it brings in thousands of tourists each day looking to explore the stunning villages clinging to the rough coastline.
Exploring the region by car is out of the question as the villages are cut off by road from the rest of Italy, even if you could drive, you would never be able to find a car park as the village streets are so narrow and very crowded with tourists. That said there are a number of ways to explore the Cinque Terre, you can walk the many footpaths that traverse the five villages, you can use local boats to hop between each village or you can take the train (which uses a series of coastal tunnels cut out of the mountainside, an amazing engineering feat). For our visit we used a combination of boats and trains to get the most of our short time in paradise.
One of the unique features of the Cinque Terre is the agriculture terraces that have been built over the centuries.
These terraces were built on the rugged, steep mountain landscape right up to the cliffs that overlook the sea and are used to grow many vines for wine. Over the years, local farmers have built a network of tracks and a small train like vehicle that they use to transport the grapes up and down the mountain.
It’s truly a magnificent sight to see, rows and rows of these terraces cut out of the mountainside with the blue of the ocean as a backdrop.
Our last boat trip of the day was to picture perfect Portofino, not part of the Cinque Terre but well worth a visit if you’re in the region.
Portofino seems to be the wealthy uncle of the towns in the area with more up-market restaurants, boutiques and its harbour full of super yachts.
Inger and I had a coffee and hot chocolate at a water front café in Portofino and it was staggering 19 Euro, compared to 6 Euro in Riomaggiore earlier in the day.
Our day was spent travelling between the villages, walking their historic centres, enjoying a coffee here and there, taking thousands of photos and in general just soaking up all of what this wonderful place has to offer. We promised ourselves that if we ever get the chance to visit the famous Cinque Terre again it will be for more than just a day!